Former heavyweight boxer Earnie Shavers died Thursday in Virginia at the age of 78.
Kenny Rainford, a fellow boxer and friend of Shavers, confirmed the news Friday to the Associated Press.
"He had a hard career, traveled a lot and slowed down all the sudden," Rainford said.
Shavers earned the nickname "Black Destroyer" for a powerful fighting style that allowed him to score 68 wins via knockout. He finished his career in 1995 with a 74-14-1 record.
The Alabama native fought against many of his generation's top boxers, including high-profile showdowns with Muhammad Ali, Larry Holmes and Ken Norton.
Shavers twice fought for the WBC heavyweight championship, first against Ali in 1977 at Madison Square Garden in New York City and then against Holmes in 1979 at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas.
"He was one of the hardest punchers in boxing," Holmes told the Associated Press.
Shavers' career is a testament to how boxing has changed over the decades. During his rise to stardom, he won 33 straight bouts, including 32 knockouts, in a span of just three years (1970-73). Now, it's rare for boxers to fight more than twice a year in the punishing sport.
Although the Fight Game has changed, the 1969 amateur national champion was confident his skill set could stand the test of time.
"No. 1," he responded when asked by Bernard Fernandez of The Ring where he ranked among the heavyweight division's all-time knockout artists. "No one can outpunch me, except God."
Outside the ring, Shavers became an ordained Christian minister under the moniker "The Knockout Evangelist" in 1989 amid his second of three boxing retirements.